Grace and peace to you, from God our Father, and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.
We have no nativity in John’s gospel. No, there are no manger or shepherds, no baby, no animals, no angels singing in the sky. No wise men either. But there is the Word. We hear about the Word in the first verse of John’s Gospel. In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and the Word was God. Jesus was right there, as all things were created, including the light that no darkness could overcome.
Then we hear that the Word became flesh and lived among us. There is a different translation of that verse that I think says this in a more understandable way. From “The Message” translation we hear, “The Word became flesh and blood, and moved into the neighborhood.” That’s what happened. The Word became flesh, became human - one of us. Isn’t that the most amazing news? Jesus, the Word, was with God. And yet he came here and became one of us, moved into the neighborhood–our neighborhood. Jesus came to us and became one of us.
In a world that sometimes seems to be against us, with wars and famine, pandemics and climate change, political and religious divides everywhere - In the midst of all the mistakes and tragedies, the blaming and shaming, we do pretend that a great deal of our problems are not of our own making. Jesus the Word became flesh and came to live with us as one of us. Why? Why would God do that? It’s not logical, it’s not rational, but it is who God is. What we hear today in this Gospel is that God loves us, God is for us. Isn’t that the best good news we could ever hear? Jesus is the Light of the world, the Light that cannot be extinguished.
In a few days, we will celebrate Jesus’s birth with stories and carols. We will remember that Jesus was once a vulnerable baby with parents who loved and protected him. The wise guys will come and honor the baby king. The shepherds will see angels in the sky, and on Christmas morning, there will be presents. And some of us may gather with family to celebrate this special day.
We will also need to remember the gift that God has given us. God has given us God's self. God has come to us right where we are. And God is still with us. We have received the greatest gift of all. As John puts it to all who received him, who believed in his name,
he gave power to become children of God. What an amazing gift, when we follow Jesus and truly love our neighbors.
As Martin Luther once said, “Our adoption is so complete that we become the hands and feet of God for the world.” Luther called it being “Little Christs” to each other. A friend of mine calls it “God with skin on.” She shared with me that there’s a book called “God with Skin On” by Anne Robertson. Robertson says her book, “in churchy language, is about incarnation—about God’s love becoming flesh. It is about how Jesus lives now... today... through you. It’s about how to be the Body of Christ in the world. For everyone you meet. Everybody. Even the nasty lady who sneers at you in church and the boss who only lives to ruin your day.”
That’s what John is talking about today in his very poetic story of Christmas. I’ve heard it said that Jesus is God’s sermon of love to God’s people. Jesus, the Word of God, there in the beginning before all things, became human and walked among us not just telling us but showing us how much God loves us. Jesus is “God with skin” on for the world. God sends people into our lives to be “God with skin” on for us. That’s why it’s so important to be part of a family of faith and to cultivate spiritual friendships with people we trust to have our best interest at heart. People who love and support and care for us while gently holding us accountable for our attitudes and actions.
I heard a story of a third-grade boy, named Ben who came home and announced that a girl in his class had died in a car accident. The girl’s family lived up the street from Ben’s family. Ben wanted to visit his friend’s mom to say he was sorry. Ben’s mom knew her son was sad but she was worried that he would upset his classmate’s mom by his visit. After much pleading, Ben’s mom relented. He walked over to the house and after a long time, returned. “How’d it go, Ben?” Mom asked. “Okay” was the reply. Mom was a little apprehensive. “What did you say to her?” Ben’s reply brought tears to her eyes. “I didn’t say anything,” he said. “I just sat on her lap and we cried together.”
“And the Word became flesh.” Ben was “God with skin on” for his classmate’s mom. God’s arms wrapped around that grieving Mom, giving comfort. At Christmas we’re reminded, in the story of God’s incarnation, God becoming flesh, becoming human in Jesus, that God loves us. We’re invited to allow God to wrap arms of peace and comfort around us - then, when we become little Christs in our own lives by faith, we find our arms wrapping around others who need Christ in their lives. Amen.